Proper Seated Barbell Shoulder-Press Technique

Proper form during a barbell shoulder press prevents injury.

Proper form during a barbell shoulder press prevents injury.

Hold a heavy barbell overhead and you feel powerful. Move the barbell wrong and you'll get injured. A seated barbell shoulder press targets the front of your shoulders and also improves the middle and rear portions of the deltoids. Use proper form when pressing the barbell overhead to reduce shoulder strain and shoulder joint injury. As an added precaution, ask a spotter to assist you during the exercise.

Select a barbell that is already weighted or one that requires additional weight plates. An Olympic barbell weighs 45 pounds. You want a weight that allows you to complete eight to 12 repetitions.

Set the barbell rack just below the height of your shoulders when you are seated. Place the barbell on the rack. Sit with your upper back, head and rear in contact with the backrest.

Hold onto the barbell with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Position your palms facing forward. In this position your forearms are vertical with the floor.

Maintain a strong core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Sit up straight and press your shoulders down away from your ears.

Exhale, straighten your elbows and press the barbell up until your arms are almost straight. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. Maintain a straight, strong wrist without letting your hand bend forward or backward.

Inhale, bend your elbows and slowly lower the bar to your upper chest. Keep your head back so the bar does not hit your face.

Repeat Step 5 and Step 6 for your desired number of repetitions. After your final repetition, re-rack the bar and rest before you begin another set.


  • Begin with a light weight until you perfect the technique. Increase the resistance only when you are easily able to perform 12 repetitions without a spotter.


  • Avoid the overhead shoulder press if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury. Talk with your doctor if you are new to weight training.

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About the Author

A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.

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